Google offers update to Picasa photo software

Google has introduced an upgrade to its Picasa photo editing and organizing software, offering users advanced capabilities such as adding new lighting and color effects, and burning CDs.

Picasa 2, available for free download from the search giant's Web site on Tuesday, builds on the product Google gained when it acquired photo management company Picasa Inc. last year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the release underscores the search company's focus on allowing users to better find and organize information stored on their computers.

Picasa 2 scans stored images and sorts them by date, allows users to add labels and star ratings to favorites, and lets them keep pictures in multiple albums.

For editing, users are offered basic fix buttons for cropping photos, removing red eye and fixing contrast and color. The new release also contains added effects, such as the ability to focus on a subject and turn a gray sky to blue. Picasa 2 can also be used to create a poster or screensaver with photos, or even a short film.

The sharing features have also been enhanced. Using Picasa's instant messaging product, Hello, photos can be sent directly to a friend's computer, or transferred to a personal blog using Hello's Bloggerbot tool.

The new software is available for download from Google's Picasa page at http://www.picasa.com. It requires Microsoft's Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP operating systems, and Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher.

The search company snapped up Picasa in July of last year, and began offering free downloads of its then current software, Picasa 1.6, almost immediately. The software had been selling for US$29.

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